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This post has been such an internal battle for me. Contemplated writing it. Gave up writing it. Wrote it. Deleted it. Now finally I’m committed to getting this out. While it’s a catharsis for me, hopefully someone can benefit from my mistakes.

I believe in love. I’m the soul mate-love of my life-cry at chick flicks-love conquers all-type.  Love (and subsequently heartbreak) makes for great poetry. But being such a hopeful romantic has proven to be one of my greatest flaws. On more than one occasion, I’ve been a fool for love. Nearly to the point that my sanity was compromised.

After my divorce, I went through a few emotionally tumultuous relationships. I wasn’t really looking for anything nor was I trying to get over my ex. But after a while, I quickly discovered two things:
1. I hadn’t healed from my divorce
2. I wasn’t completely happy with me
I actually didn’t come to these realizations until I walked away from these toxic relationships. It was a hard realization for me because I felt like I put myself in unnecessary situations. But for the sake of love…I suffered.

I honestly thought love required sacrifice,and it absolutely does, but not when you’re the only one sacrificing. I was giving my all without even a promise of reciprocity. Simply put, I gave because I needed him to want me. Any sensible person (and I considered myself as such) would have walked away. Sometimes I did end it…but I always went back. I told myself it was easier to be there than to be alone. I held on to the hope that one day my efforts would be matched. And that was my second mistake. I didn’t change anything I was doing but I expected something different. I do believe this constitutes the definition of insanity. I continued to give every part of my heart and when it didn’t work out, I contended he just wasn’t worthy (which held a great deal of validity). But I gave my all even when he showed me he didn’t respect me or value my heart. I allowed myself to be used, physically, emotionally and financially. I settled. All because I believed so deeply in love.

What I had to do was truly define love for myself. Well…redefine it. What I considered to be love was actually desperation; there was nothing wonderful or happy about what I was in. The hopeful romantic in me refused to die but believing in love didn’t have to include me being a fool. What I discovered was that I was trying to put a band aid on a deep puncture wound. One man didn’t love me right? Fine, I’ll just love someone else. That didn’t work out either? Ok. Where’s the next man? All I was doing was adding on to my hurt. Imagine my frustration of trying to navigate my way through the years of hurt as I continued to pile another failed relationship onto my heart. And at the bottom of my pile was a negative image of myself. Sacrificing my all left me broken and empty. As I was pouring out, no one was pouring back into me. So what followed was bitterness and depression. I couldn’t process people telling me “Girl he doesn’t deserve you” or “You’re better off without him” because I didn’t see myself as being worthy of more than I had accepted.

How was it that no one saw me, the real me? They only saw everything I could do for them. I was used and I allowed it. That’s probably the hardest pill to swallow. Even though I was unhappy and I wanted more, I allowed myself to be second, used and ignored. I convinced myself I needed the attention and affection, even if it was part time (yes at times, I was the dreaded other woman).  I needed those fleeting moments to prove I mattered. In the end, I was sated momentarily but my spirit was crushed. I felt ugly and useless. I decided I wasn’t worth loving and I was only good enough for sex. My already low self esteem was shattered beyond recognition.

How can I love somebody else if I can’t love myself enough to know when it’s time to let go?

Yes Mary J. Blige, how can I love someone else if I’m so unhappy with me? The short answer? It’s impossible because I couldn’t give what I didn’t possess.

In order for me to learn to love anyone else, I had to truly love myself first. I know self love sounds so cheesy but believe me, it was the most empowering epiphany. What I had to do was determine my worth and place a value on my heart. It wasn’t easy at all but I was so tired of going through the same thing. I cut off pointless relationships and flings. I decided never again would a man benefit from me without being with me. I had to develop a will power that I didn’t know I had. When the “I miss you”, “Can we talk”, “I was just thinking about you” texts and phone calls came, I had to be extremely selfish. I was choosing me over a moment of pleasure.

It’s simple, I didn’t know how strong I had to be/Apparently, the strength it took to hold on to what we had/Was multiplied to let go of the past

Little by little, my confidence grew. Daily, I became more comfortable with being alone. I went through some pretty empty days and dark nights. I thought a lot, I wrote a lot, I cried a lot. But what emerged was a renewed mind and a value on my heart. My love would not be free. My love would not be given away. My love would not be exploited. My love would be cherished. My love would be earned. But before my love would consider leaving my heart, I would ensure that I was loving myself first.

It was when I finally dismantled my desperation and just focused on healing my heart that someone came into my life. What makes me feel like this different is my expectation of the relationship, my definition of love and my renewed mind. See, if I had met him before, he’d be discarded into the pile of lovers past with great disdain. Unknowingly, I had begun to prepare myself to be a better me so that I could appreciate him. My self esteem has been enhanced by him but I don’t depend on him to make me feel like a woman. Because if he leaves, I still have to know my worth.

Right now, I can truly say that even if I hadn’t met him I would still be content with me. I’m not saying that I was completely happy being single, but I was content with building myself up. I’ve always wondered how people could move so freely between relationships, myself included. I now know it’s necessary to take that time to let my heart heal. I wasn’t going to write this, much less publish it because it made me take a good long look at myself and my decisions. However, as much as I want to blame those guys (and I still kind of do) I am beginning to embrace what happened and decided to learn from it.

So maybe this will help someone. Hopefully the tears that accompanied this post will be worth it. Maybe someone will see themselves where I was and decide their heart has more value than what’s been allowed. Or maybe this has proven to be a part of my healing process. Either way…it’s out and I feel a burden has been lifted!

~Jenn

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